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Urban Human Habitats: 12 Compact Concepts for Growing Cities
By SA Rogers,
Web Urbanist, 6 June 2016.

How will various cities around the world adapt to rapid population growth while maintaining quality of life and responding to their unique environments and cultural context? In some cases, new ideas for maximizing urban density require building new cities from the ground up, while others reclaim industrial areas and depressed suburbs or simply keep building higher and higher into the sky. These proposals - some fanciful, others currently under construction or completed - represent a diverse variety of urban growth solutions, each with its own pros and cons.

1. Lush Pedestrian-Oriented Vision for Singapore


The PARKROYAL on Pickering, designed by WOHA Architects, is a pedestrian-oriented elevated neighborhood for Singapore with lush greenery planted on nearly every level and a porous layout encouraging daylight, cross-breezes and free circulation between the various elements of the structure. The 2015 winner of the Urban Habitat Award by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), the Parkroyal was praised for being “intelligently influenced by both its environmental and cultural context.”


A contoured podium draws inspiration from terraced landscapes like rice paddies, and a series of columns resembling trees makes the entire building seem to hover above the street, establishing a shaded pedestrian thoroughfare on the ground level. By stretching upward, the building design with all of its integrated greenery adds 215% new green space to the plot area, proving that increasing density in cities doesn’t have to mean losing parks and gardens.

2. Cities Carved Into Coastal Cliffs


The ‘Living on the Edge’ project imagines building new cities right into coastal cliffs around the world, forming new urban environments.


While it would seem like expanding human developments into areas that are currently in their natural state isn’t exactly desirable (not to mention the threat of rising seas), the designers contend that making use of these spaces high above the water level would be better than allowing currently-existing cities to keep sprawling outside their urban boundaries into surrounding forests and agricultural land.

3. Shop-Top Neighborhood in Beverly Hills


As multiple functions compete for space in crowded cities, the answer is often to build tall structures full of apartments that sacrifice the classic suburban neighborhood feel for density and walkability. But what if we could have both? 8600 Wilshire by MAD Architects places a relatively traditional neighborhood complete with green spaces and trees right on top of a retail block in Beverly Hills.


The clustered white glass villas offer 18 residential units in the form of a ‘hillside village,’ with the houses appearing opaque from the street but facing the inner courtyard with transparent facades.

4. High-Density Urban Development Inspired by Chinese Mountains


Another MAD project “treats architecture as a landscape,” integrating waterfalls, trees and gardens into a high-density urban development with curvaceous structures mimicking traditional Chinese paintings of mountain ranges.


‘Shan-shui City’ is a concept that can be applied to all sorts of building projects, and MAD aims to make use of it in both all-new construction projects in China and as supplements to existing cities. They will apply it to a mixed-use urban development that’s half a million square meters in size, and new plaza development in Beijing’s central business district.

5. Miami’s Innovation District


Conceived as an urban campus full of public amenities, performance and exhibition zones, offices and a variety of housing, the ‘Innovation District’ by SHoP aims to add a bit of world-class architectural flair to Miami in the form of dense urban developments, which this rich yet sprawling city currently lacks. The idea is fostering the growth of creative technology industries in Miami to help nudge along other improvements like public transit and denser housing.


The complex will include affordable micro-units geared toward young, creative urbanites who are generally priced out of the Miami market. The 630-foot ‘Innovation Tower’ stands as the centerpiece, full of office space, restaurants and observation decks.

6. Bringing Greenery Back to Los Angeles


Another Los Angeles project, this one complete, added 12,000 square feet of green space as well as rental apartments, a gym, a spa and a street-level supermarket to the Koreatown neighborhood. The Vermont is the largest apartment project in Los Angeles since the Great Recession, with two towers containing 464 housing units to meet increasing demand for rental spaces.


This new high-density project was placed right next to major transit lines and represents a sort of “new urbanism” for the city, but it’s unclear how much green space it actually added or what kind of impact such a luxurious development is having on the diverse surrounding neighborhood. The builders claim that the project is attractive to young people because it has a feel that’s more akin to New York than Los Angeles.

7. Tianjin Eco City


China is attempting to alleviate severe overcrowding in its most populated cities by creating entirely new urban centers in the country, with mixed success. The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, a joint venture between the governments of China and Singapore, aims to become a “model for sustainable development,” and is currently partially built and occupied, with an expected completion date of 2020. Like most such eco cities, it was built on once-polluted land with stringent green architectural standards.


It’s hard to judge whether or not it’s working out, since it’s still in an adolescent developmental phase, but so far, not a lot of people seem to be attracted to the concept. Others have criticized such built-from-the-ground-up cities as being a mere patch on China’s dire environmental woes.

8. Spiraling Skyscraper Apartments


Every single apartment in a towering development could have its own private green space with this unusual silhouette by Nabito, a spiraling skyscraper pivoting residential units around a central core so that each roof becomes a garden for the unit above it.


That means every apartment has its own unique view of the city, and the slim-line skyscraper isn’t blocking daylight to the ground.

9. Self-Sustaining Green-Roofed Farm City


Sloped artificial fields are layered right on top of urban housing in this urban farm concept by Studio Shift. Created in response to a sponsored exhibition that asked 12 firms to envision how increased density could work in harmony with additional public space and agriculture, ‘Milano Stadt Krone’ can support 25,000 inhabitants while maintaining the Lombardy region’s steady production of food crops and products (about one third of the nation’s agricultural output.)


Arable land is strategically positioned toward the southern sky, with plants arranged on the slope according to their sun and water needs. Underneath is a network of apartments and a commercial layer with pathways connecting to transit lines. The rest of the space is dedicated to gardens and public parks.

10. Adaptable Water-Focused Community


Former industrial land in Kvarnholmen, an island east of Stockholm in Sweden, is reclaimed as a vibrant water-centric neighborhood designed to encourage density and city life on the waterfront. Architecture firm Kjellander + Sjöberg proposes a mosaic of 900-1200 new housing units of varying price points with commercial units, schools, public services and shared spaces, and the infrastructure is all designed to absorb and retain large amounts of rainwater.


Honoring the local history and culture while also planning for an uncertain future, the development enables rapid urban growth without sacrificing all of the things that make cities desirable places to live.

11. Hyper Density Hyper Landscape Plan for Dallas


‘Hyper Density Hyper Landscape’ by Stoss and SHoP Architects turns Dallas, Texas into a grid of green spaces, with bands of lush landscape complementing high-density urban developments between the existing downtown and the planned Trinity River Corridor Park.


The Old River area gets revitalized as a chain of parks and water gardens complete with floating cafes and water amphitheaters, and large swaths of unused land become entrepreneurial urban forests and farms. The 176-acre proposal was chosen as one of three finalists in the Dallas Connected City Design Challenge.

12. Mixed-Use Urban Ribbon in Singapore


This undulating ribbon-like structure by SPARK Architects is a response to the fact that by 2030, a full 20% of Singapore’s population will be retirement-aged and in need of high-density housing that works for their needs.


It’s designed to provide senior living accommodations as well as public gardening spaces open to residents on the ground level and on each of the terraced floors. The master plan maximizes sun exposure and encourages residents to walk around for exercise, interaction with neighbors, and enjoying views of the city.

Top image: The ‘Living on the Edge’ project. Credit: Bustler.

[Source: Web Urbanist. Edited. Top image and some links added.]